PARRMATTA EELS V NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS – 5.00PM (NZT)/3.00PM (AEST), SATURDAY, JULY 27 @ BANKWEST STADIUM, SYDNEY
The Storylines: The Warriors are still alive. In fact, after scratching out three wins and a draw in their last five, they are just one point outside the Top 8.
But they need to keep winning – particularly with a horror draw coming up.
The Warriors were scrappy and gutsy against Cronulla in Wellington, hanging in the contest and pulling back an eight-point deficit (racked up by the Sharks on the back of some abhorrent refereeing) to win 19-18. Their spine stars stepped up big-time, while the result was impressive given three of their four first-choice wingers and centres were out.
Metre-eating behemoth Ken Maumalo’s return is a massive boost ahead of a showdown with Parramatta.
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) July 24, 2019
The Eels are arguably more enigmatic than the Warriors, but they’ve done it better so far to sit in sixth place – three points clear of the Auckland-based outfit.
A 36-24 defeat to Manly last Sunday ended a three-game winning streak for the blue-and-golds.
The Warriors’ remarkable run away from Mt Smart continued last weekend – they are now unbeaten in their last six on the road – which they’ll be looking to parlay into a debut win at Bankwest Stadium.
Ins and Outs: The Warriors’ only change sees Ken Maumalo return from concussion, which relegates rookie winger Adam Pompey.
But Kodi Nikorima is in doubt with an ankle injury, with Chanel Harris-Tavita ready to come off the bench and start.
Mid-season recruit Waqa Blake will make his club debut for Parramatta at centre, which sees Josh Hoffman shift to the wing.
Oregon Kaufusi and Daniel Alvaro return to the Eels’ 17 on the bench.
Kodi Nikorima in doubt for this weekend due to ankle injury suffered in Rd18. Concern for minor medial/high ankle sprain as left foot gets caught under tackler & rolls out. Finished the game but was in a moon boot post match. If minor possible to play again at 1 week post injury pic.twitter.com/pyd3BVzk7u
— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) July 24, 2019
The History: Played 39 – Eels won 21, Warriors won 18
-The Warriors have won five of their last seven against the Eels.
-Neither side has won back-to-back matches in the rivalry since the Warriors’ twin wins in 2015.
-Four of the last five clashes were decided by 12 points or less.
-Seven of the teams’ last 10 meetings produced 45-plus points.
-The Eels boast a 14-6 home record against the Warriors since 1995.
-The Warriors are unbeaten in their last six games away from Mt Smart.
-The Eels are 5-1 at the recently-opened Bankwest Stadium.
3 Key Match-ups
Blake Ayshford v Waqa Blake: Assuming mid-season arrival Blake lines up at left centre, Ayshford – who has been playing much of the year in Canterbury Cup as a second-rower, and was largely anonymous on the wing last week – has a big job on his hands. Blake repeatedly terrorised the Warriors during his time at Penrith and can bust a game wide open. It would nice of the Ayshford-Beale combo could offer something – anything – on attack this Saturday.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck v Clint Gutherson: The captains, the talismen, the inspirations of their respective side. RTS has the edge on form by virtue of his colossal numbers and line-breaking ability. But ‘King Gutho’ is no slouch in those departments, while he provides the extra genuine ball-playing option from fullback to Parramatta that the Warriors lack with Roger. What an individual battle it promises to be.
Adam Blair v Manu Ma’u: They play on opposite sides of the park, but the veteran second-rowers will be looking to provide similar qualities to their teams: intimidation, work ethic, leadership and maybe a game-breaking play or two. The maligned Blair has hit a purple patch recently, discovering his running game and playing with real energy. Super League-bound Ma’u, who offer a bit more as a tackle-busting ball-runner, will be looking to finish his NRL career with a flourish.
— NRL Nation (@NRLNationRadio) July 21, 2019
Last Time They Met: The shorthanded Warriors won a 2018 thriller at ANZ Stadium, prevailing 24-14 with two tries in the last 13 minutes despite going into the match without linchpins Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
The Eels are 9-15 ATS when the Eels are favoured by 4 or more. The Eels are 1-7 ATS in their last eight off scoring 24-plus. The Eels have covered 5 of 6 at Bankwest. The Warriors have covered eight straight away from Mt Smart. The Warriors are 13-1 ATS away from Mt Smart off conceding 18-plus. The Warriors have covered 10 of 12 road night games. The over is 13-5 in the last 18 Warriors games away from Mt Smart. The under is 29-18 when the Eels are favoured. The under is 16-8 when the Eels are favoured by 4 or more. The under is 14-9 when the Eels are off conceding 30-plus.
TAB’s Best Bet: Warriors -4.0 @ $1.90
The Verdict: The Eels are a streaky outfit who can pile on 20 points out of nowhere. But overall it’s a good match-up for the Warriors. The visitors need to keep it tight, while not going into their shell with the ball in hand. Play the percentages, take their opportunities and grind out another nail-biter – because they won’t win a pointscoring shootout with Parramatta. Hopefully the Warriors’ road magic extends another week. Warriors by 2